Woman in torching of 'The Senator' sentenced

Sara Barnes guilty on 3 charges


SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – A woman accused of causing the fire that burned "The Senator" tree down in Big Tree Park on Jan. 16, 2012, was sentenced Wednesday.

Sara Barnes was sentenced to 30 months in the Department of Corrections, but Judge John Galluzzo suspended the sentence provided that she successfully complete five years of probation.

Barnes received the sentence after the judge adjudicated Barnes guilty of the crime of unlawful burning of lands, possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia.

While Assistant State Attorney Dave Whateley said Barnes did not receive prison time based on sentencing guidelines, Galluzza structured the sentence to result in her going to prison should she not successfully complete her probation.

Barnes was also sentenced to 250 hours of alternative community service and was ordered to pay restitution to the Seminole County Board of County Commissioners of approximately $12,700 for the removal of the burned tree and a cost of investigation of $1,281 to the Department of Agriculture.

A substance abuse evaluation was also ordered to be conducted on Barnes as part of her probation.

The Senator was the biggest and oldest pond cypress tree in the world.   At 125 feet tall, it was estimated to be 3,500 years old.